not so long ago, a monster came to the small town of Castle Rock, Maine. He killed a waitress named Alma Frechette in 1970; a woman named Pauline Toothaker and a junior high school student named Cheryl Moody in 1971; a pretty girl named Carol Dunbarger in 1974; a teacher named Etta Ringgold in the fall of 1975; finally, a grade-schooler named Mary Kate Hendrasen in the early winter of that same year.
He was not werewolf, vampire, ghoul, or unnameable creature from the enchanted forest or from the snowy wastes; he was only a cop named Frank Dodd with mental and sexual problems. A good man named John Smith uncovered his name by a kind of magic, but before he could be captured—perhaps it was just as well—Frank Dodd killed himself.
There was some shock, of course, but mostly there was rejoicing in that small town, rejoicing because the monster which had haunted so many dreams was dead, dead at last. A town’s nightmares were buried in Frank Dodd’s grave.
Yet even in this enlightened age, when so many parents are aware of the psychological damage they may do to their children, surely there was one parent somewhere in Castle Rock—or perhaps one grandmother—who quieted the kids by telling them that Frank Dodd would get them if they didn’t watch out, if they weren’t good. And surely a hush fell as children looked toward their dark windows and thought of Frank Dodd in his shiny black vinyl raincoat, Frank Dodd who had choked . . . and choked . . . and choked.
He’s out there, I can hear the grandmother whispering as the wind whistles down the chimney pipe and snuffles around the old pot lid crammed in the stove hole. He’s out there, and if you’re not good, it may be his face you see looking in your bedroom window after everyone in the house is asleep except you; it may be his smiling face you see peeking at you from the closet in the middle of the night, the STOP sign he held up when he crossed the little children in one hand, the razor he used to kill himself in the other . . . so shhh, children . . . shhh . . . shhhh.
But for most, the ending was the ending. There were nightmares to be sure, and children who lay wakeful to be sure, and the empty Dodd house (for his mother had a stroke shortly afterwards and died) quickly gained a reputation as a haunted house and was avoided; but these were passing phenomena—the perhaps unavoidable side effects of a chain of senseless murders.
But time passed. Five years of time.
The monster was gone, the monster was dead. Frank Dodd moldered inside his coffin.
Except that the monster never dies. Werewolf, vampire, ghoul, unnameable creature from the wastes. The monster never dies.
It came to Castle Rock again in the summer of 1980.
• • •
Tad Trenton, four years old, awoke one morning not long after midnight in May of that year, needing to go to the bathroom. He got out of bed and walked half asleep toward the white light thrown in a wedge through the half-open door, already lowering his pajama pants. He urinated forever, flushed, and went back to bed. He pulled the covers up, and that was when he saw the creature in his closet.
Low to the ground it was, with huge shoulders bulking above its cocked head, its eyes amber-glowing pits—a thing that might have been half man, half wolf. And its eyes rolled to follow him as he sat up, his scrotum crawling, his hair standing on end, his breath a thin winter-whistle in his throat: mad eyes that laughed, eyes that promised horrible death and the music of screams that went unheard; something in the closet.
He heard its purring growl; he smelled its sweet carrion breath.
Tad Trenton clapped his hands to his eyes, hitched in breath, and screamed.
A muttered exclamation in another room—his father.
A scared cry of “What was that?” from the same room—his mother.
Their footfalls, running. As they came in, he peered through his fingers and saw it there in the closet, snarling, promising dreadfully that they might come, but they would surely go, and that when they did—
The light went on. Vic and Donna Trenton came to his bed, exchanging a look of concern over his chalky face and his staring eyes, and his mother said—no, snapped, “I told you three hot dogs was too many, Vic!”
And then his daddy was on the bed, Daddy’s arm around his back, asking him what was wrong.
Tad dared to look into the mouth of his closet again.
The monster was gone. Instead of whatever hungry beast he had seen, there were two uneven piles of blankets, winter bedclothes which Donna had not yet gotten around to taking up to the cut-off third floor. These were stacked on the chair which Tad used to stand on when he needed something from the high closet shelf. Instead of the shaggy, triangular head, cocked sideways in a kind of predatory questioning gesture, he saw his teddybear on the taller of the two piles of blankets. Instead of pitted and baleful amber eyes, there were the friendly brown glass balls from which his Teddy observed the world.
“What’s wrong, Tadder?” his daddy asked him again.
“There was a monster!” Tad cried. “In my closet!” And he burst into tears.
His mommy sat with him; they held him between them, soothed him as best they could. There followed the ritual of parents. They explained there were no monsters; that he had just had a bad dream. His mommy explained how shadows could sometimes look like the bad things they sometimes showed on TV or in the comic books, and Daddy told him everything was all right, fine, that nothing in their good house could hurt him. Tad nodded and agreed that it was so, although he knew it was not.
His father explained to him how, in the dark, the two uneven piles of blankets had looked like hunched shoulders, how the teddybear had looked like a cocked head, and how the bathroom light, reflecting from Teddy’s glass eyes, had made them seem like the eyes of a real live animal.
“Now look,” he said. “Watch me close, Tadder.”
His father took the two piles of blankets and put them far back in Tad’s closet. Tad could hear the coathangers jingling softly, talking about Daddy in their coathanger language. That was funny, and he smiled a little. Mommy caught his smile and smiled back, relieved.
His daddy came out of the closet, took Teddy, and put him in Tad’s arms.
“And last but not least,” Daddy said with a flourish and a bow that made both Tad and Mommy giggle, “ze chair.”
He closed the closet door firmly and then put the chair against the door. When he came back to Tad’s bed he was still smiling, but his eyes were serious.
“Yes,” Tad said, and then forced himself to say it. “But it was there, Daddy. I saw it. Really.”
“Your mind saw something, Tad,” Daddy said, and his big, warm hand stroked Tad’s hair. “But you didn’t see a monster in your closet, not a real one. There are no monsters, Tad. Only in stories, and in your mind.”
He looked from his father to his mother and back again—their big, well-loved faces.
“Really,” his mommy said. “Now I want you to get up and go pee, big guy.”
“I did. That’s what woke me up.”
“Well,” she said, because parents never believed you, “humor me then, what do you say?”
So he went in and she watched while he did four drops and she smiled and said, “See? You did have to go.”
Resigned, Tad nodded. Went back to bed. Was tucked in. Accepted kisses.
And as his mother and father went back to the door the fear settled on him again like a cold coat full of mist. Like a shroud stinking of hopeless death. Oh please, he thought, but there was no more, just that: Oh please oh please oh please.
Perhaps his father caught his thought, because Vic turned back, one hand on the light switch, and repeated: “No monsters, Tad.”
“No, Daddy,” Tad said, because in that instant his father’s eyes seemed shadowed and far, as if he needed to be convinced. “No monsters.” Except for the one in my closet.
The light snapped off.
“Good night, Tad.” His mother’s voice trailed back to him lightly, softly, and in his mind he cried out, Be careful, Mommy, they eat the ladies! In all the movies they catch the ladies and carry them off and eat them! Oh please oh please oh please—
But they were gone.
So Tad Trenton, four years old, lay in his bed, all wires and stiff Erector Set braces. He lay with the covers pulled up to his chin and one arm crushing Teddy against his chest, and there was Luke Skywalker on one wall; there was a chipmunk standing on a blender on another wall, grinning cheerily (IF LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE! the cheeky, grinning chipmunk was saying); there was the whole motley Sesame Street crew on a third: Big Bird, Ernie, Oscar, Grover. Good totems; good magic. But oh the wind outside, screaming over the roof and skating down black gutters! He would sleep no more this night.
But little by little the wires unsnarled themselves and stiff Erector Set muscles relaxed. His mind began to drift. . . .
And then a new screaming, this one closer than the night-wind outside, brought him back to staring wakefulness again.
The hinges on the closet door.
That thin sound, so high that perhaps only dogs and small boys awake in the night could have heard it. His closet door swung open slowly and steadily, a dead mouth opening on darkness inch by inch and foot by foot.
The monster was in that darkness. It crouched where it had crouched before. It grinned at him, and its huge shoulders bulked above its cocked head, and its eyes glowed amber, alive with stupid cunning. I told you they’d go away, Tad, it whispered. They always do, in the end. And then I can come back. I like to come back. I like you, Tad. I’ll come back every night now, I think, and every night I’ll come a little closer to your bed . . . and a little closer . . . until one night, before you can scream for them, you’ll hear something growling, something growling right beside you, Tad, it’ll be me, and I’ll pounce, and then I’ll eat you and you’ll be in me.
Tad stared at the creature in his closet with drugged, horrified fascination. There was something that . . . was almost familiar. Something he almost knew. And that was the worst, that almost knowing. Because—
Because I’m crazy, Tad. I’m here. I’ve been here all along. My name was Frank Dodd once, and I killed the ladies and maybe I ate them, too. I’ve been here all along, I stick around, I keep my ear to the ground. I’m the monster, Tad, the old monster, and I’ll have you soon, Tad. Feel me getting closer . . . and closer. . . .
Perhaps the thing in the closet spoke to him in its own hissing breath, or perhaps its voice was the wind’s voice. Either way, neither way, it didn’t matter. He listened to its words, drugged with terror, near fainting (but oh so wide awake); he looked upon its shadowed, snarling face, which he almost knew. He would sleep no more tonight; perhaps he would never sleep again.
But sometime later, sometime between the striking of half past midnight and the hour of one, perhaps because he was small, Tad drifted away again. Thin sleep in which hulking, furred creatures with white teeth chased him deepened into dreamless slumber.
The wind held long conversations with the gutters. A rind of white spring moon rose in the sky. Somewhere far away, in some still meadow of night or along some pine-edged corridor of forest, a dog barked furiously and then fell silent.
And in Tad Trenton’s closet, something with amber eyes held watch.
• • •
“Did you put the blankets back?” Donna asked her husband the next morning. She was standing at the stove, cooking bacon. Tad was in the other room, watching The New Zoo Revue and eating a bowl of Twinkles. Twinkles was a Sharp cereal, and the Trentons got all their Sharp cereals free.
“Hmmm?” Vic asked. He was buried deep in the sports pages. A transplanted New Yorker, he had so far successfully resisted Red Sox fever. But he was masochistically pleased to see that the Mets were off to another superlatively cruddy start.
“The blankets. In Tad’s closet. They were back in there. The chair was back in there, too, and the door was open again.” She brought the bacon, draining on a paper towel and still sizzling, to the table. “Did you put them back on his chair?”
“Not me,” Vic said, turning a page. “It smells like a mothball convention back there.”
“That’s funny. He must have put them back.”
He put the paper aside and looked up at her. “What are you talking about, Donna?”
“You remember the bad dream last night—”
“Not apt to forget. I thought the kid was dying. Having a convulsion or something.”
She nodded. “He thought the blankets were some kind of—” She shrugged.
“Boogeyman,” Vic said, grinning.
“I guess so. And you gave him his teddybear and put those blankets in the back of the closet. But they were back on the chair when I went in to make his bed.” She laughed. “I looked in, and for just a second there I thought—”
“Now I know where he gets it,” Vic said, picking up the newspaper again. He cocked a friendly eye at her. “Three hot dogs, my ass.”
Later, after Vic had shot off to work. Donna asked Tad why he had put the chair back in the closet with the blankets on it if they had scared him in the night.
Tad looked up at her, and his normally animated, lively face seemed pale and watchful—too old. His Star Wars coloring book was open in front of him. He had been doing a picture from the interstellar cantina, using his green Crayola to color Greedo.
“I didn’t,” he said.
“But Tad, if you didn’t, and Daddy didn’t, and I didn’t—”
“The monster did it,” Tad said. “The monster in my closet.”
He bent to his picture again.
She stood looking at him, troubled, a little frightened. He was a bright boy, and perhaps too imaginative. This was not such good news. She would have to talk to Vic about it tonight. She would have to have a long talk with him about it.
“Tad, remember what your father said,” she told him now. “There aren’t any such things as monsters.”
“Not in the daytime, anyway,” he said, and smiled at her so openly, so beautifully, that she was charmed out of her fears. She ruffled his hair and kissed his cheek.
She meant to talk to Vic, and then Steve Kemp came while Tad was at nursery school, and she forgot, and Tad screamed that night too, screamed that it was in his closet, the monster, the monster!
"Hits the jugular...King's most disturbing horror yet!" ( The New York Times)
"Stephen King has created the ultimate horror!" ( Houston Chronicle)
"A word of advice: read [ Cujo] in your well-lighted home, behind locked doors, when you're snug in your own bed." ( Denver Post)
"A biting novel of gut-twisting terror and suspense." ( Publishers Weekly)
"White knuckles all the way, Cujo is most devastatingly effective in its use of mundane domestic detail to form the very sinews of terror." ( Cosmopolitan)
"A heart-pounding, gut-wrenching thriller that haunts your dreams." ( Newport News Daily Press)
"It is nothing less than the state of the art in horror fiction." ( Atlanta Journal)
"Just when your blood pressure is back to normal, Stephen King is at it again...with a nightmare his fans won't forget." ( Kansas City Star)
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description du livre Paw Prints 2008-06-26, 2008. Library Binding. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire P111439507619